About badesjarlais

I'm a food blogger who loves food and tries to live a healthy as possible, while still enjoying all kinds of food. As the mom of a very lively (but picky) little boy and the wife to an somewhat equally picky husband, it's my goal in life to serve up tasty, healthy meals on the fly.

Family Hike

Last year around this time, I decided I wanted to start getting healthy and the way I was going to do that was that I was going to hike.  For those of you who don’t watch Sex and the City, I’m here to inform you that hiking is walking.

I started taking Jake to the park on the weekends and we’d “hike” meaning we’d walk the trails and he’d look for the little colored circles on the poles to tell us which path we were on.


This year, the bug hit me again.  The minute it was warm enough to spend more than 5 minutes outside, I knew it was time to start hiking again.  Plus I needed to get some “off day exercise” in.  I joined Orangetheory Fitness a while back (more on that later) and find that I need to take every third or fourth day off so I don’t get burnt out.  But I’m also on this “closing my Move Ring” kick, so I knew I wanted to get outside today and get moving.  I asked the boys if they wanted to join me and off we went.

Originally I had intended to go back to our old standby park for our hike, but on a whim I decided to google walking trails near me.  I found another park that was right across from the soccer field Jake plays on sometimes, so we decided to check it out.


We gave Jake the option of doing ½ a mile, 1 mile, or 1 ½ miles.  He said 1 ½ miles with no hesitation and went clomping into the woods in his boots.

It wasn’t long before we came upon the creek Jake’s school is named after, so of course we had to explore.

It was such a beautiful day and really not even that chilly.  It was in the upper 40s and, when we were in the woods, there was very little wind.  Jeff kept commenting on how quiet it was even though we were inside the city.  It was very calming and peaceful.


I think Jake thoroughly enjoyed himself today.

Especially when I asked if he wanted to go on a “treasure hunt” (geocaching).  I loaded up the app and we started walking.  Before we knew it, we got the alert that we were getting close!  In fact, we passed the location up before we knew it and had to double back.  After looking around for a minute, we spotted something in the tree.


Jake was SO EXCITED when we found the cache!  He was even more excited when I told him he could take a small toy from the container.  Not knowing we would be geocaching, I hadn’t brought anything with me to replace in the container but, Daddy to the rescue!, he put in a quarter.  Who doesn’t like finding money??


A little further along, we stumbled on this:


It was breathtaking.  Now, I’m all about the ocean and the beach, but there’s something soothing about a creek with trees and rocks, even if it is during the yucky cold season when everything seems dead.  I can’t wait to come back here when it’s all green and gorgeous outside!

Jeff and I never have pictures of us together since we are always the ones taking the pictures.  Since Jake is 6 now, I thought he was old enough to be responsible and not break my phone.  I set up the picture for him and told him what to do.

The result:


Not bad!  The ones he took after that weren’t terrible, but mommy didn’t feel particularly flattered by the angle he used so we’ll just pretend they don’t exist.


I’ve been meaning to take pictures of Jake in his 2030 t-shirt while he was in Kindergarten so we have them to compare with when he’s a senior.  I think we might end up coming back here for that photo shoot!

It was an awesome way to spend some quality time with my family on Saturday and I can’t wait to do it again!


Ribs in the Smoker or Instant Pot

After nearly a year without a blog post, I started getting that itch again.  That itch to be creative and share with the world.  So here I am…sitting quietly on a Saturday morning, coffee in hand, contemplating what my newest blog post should be…if I were to start back up again.

No one get your hopes up.  It could be like last year when I posted a handful of new things and then went dark again.

The problem is you never know how busy you’re going to be or how much energy you’ll have.  One of the biggest tips every blogger or youtuber will tell you is consistency is key. That’s why I had originally decided to post on Tuesdays and Fridays.  But, honestly, it was so much better when I FIRST started my blog.  I posted when I felt like it.  And it seemed more authentic.  I wasn’t posting things just to stay on a schedule.  I posted things I actually wanted to share with the world.

I mean, you don’t schedule Facebook or IG posts, right?  You post things in the moment when you have something you want to share with people!  So maybe that’s the key?  Who knows.  All I know is that I have something I want to share today and I don’t care about consistency and schedules anymore.

So this may be the only blog post for 2018 or it may be the start of something great.  I guess only time will tell!  So…on to the ribs!

Whenever I meal plan for the week, I typically ask the boys if they want anything special for dinner.  Normally I don’t get an answer, but last week Jeff asked for ribs!  Perfect timing as one of the days I was planning for was Super Bowl Sunday!  I had originally planned to cook them in the Instant Pot (turns out amazing btw), but when he said he wanted to smoke them, I obliged.  And guys…they were out of this world!!

Smoked Ribs

Smoked Spare Ribs
1 rack of spare ribs, trimmed*
Steak seasoning (I prefer the one from DLM, but any mesquite or steak seasoning will do)
Foil pans that fit in your smoker
1 bottle bbq sauce

Trim the ribs of most of the excess fat and remove the membrane if you desire.  The membrane is that silvery thin skin looking piece that’s on the bone side of the ribs.  I have difficulty doing this sometimes and the membrane doesn’t really bother me, so I don’t always remove it.  Season ribs liberally with steak seasoning.  Let ribs come to room temperature for about 30 minutes while your smoker reaches the internal temp of 225*.

Place seasoned ribs in the foil pans.  I used two 8″ square pans and had to cut my ribs in half to fit.  You can also put the ribs directly on the racks in the smoker, but I’m lazy and don’t like to clean, so I left them in the pans.

Smoke ribs for at least 6 hours or until the internal temperature of your ribs reach 190* so they fall apart.  We ran out of time and the ribs were about 170*.  They were still amazing, just a little bit chewy at this temperature.  You definitely want to reach 145* so they are completely cooked through.

Add wood chips to your smoker every 1-2 hours.  The more wood chips you add, the smokier your food will taste.

Some people suggest covering the ribs in foil after 2 hours so your ribs don’t take on that much smoke, but we left them uncovered and liked how smokey they were.  I guess it’s a matter of preference.

Once your ribs are cooked through, remove them from the smoker and cover them with bbq sauce.  I like to broil my ribs after I’ve sauced them, but it’s not necessary.  If you want to do this step, broil your ribs in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the sauce gets a little caramelized.

This night I served them with Flo Lum’s smashed potato skins, which were equally as amazing and so easy!!!

*It was just Jeff and I eating the ribs, but obviously you can use as many racks as your smoker can hold.  Also, we got our ribs at Aldi for $8!  That’s the cheapest I’ve seen ribs and, guys, they were tasty!


If you want a great recipe for Instant Pot ribs, check out this guy!  His recipe works wonderfully!


Speaking of Instant Pot recipes, would you be interested in seeing videos of the different recipes I’ve made in the IP?  I’ve thought about filming some of them.  Have a great weekend!

Kitchen Reveal

Hi.  It’s been quite a while since my last post.  I had these grand plans to document my cooking during our kitchen construction and reveal bits and pieces of the reno throughout.  I did that to an extent but then life got in the way.  Jeff went to Amsterdam for a week, I was matron of honor in my bestie’s wedding, I was behind at work, and my mom came to visit just to mention a few things.  Plus…I kind of forgot.  There.  I said it.  Begging your pardon…

I went to a party on Saturday and several of my friends asked about the kitchen, reminding me that I had neglected to post my reveal!  So, without further ado, here goes!

First, remember the before…


And the after from roughly the same angle:

IMG_7707editedEveryone that’s seen the kitchen has commented how much bigger and more open the space feels!  I mean, that’s what happens when you remove walls, but still!

IMG_7706editedI am absolutely in love with my new kitchen.

Let me walk you around and introduce you a little:
IMG_7713editedOne of my most favorite parts about the space is our huge island.  I already hosted a party here thanks to Easter and it’s amazing how much easier it is to maneuver.  I generally do my parties buffet style and, in the old kitchen, I’d have to set up drinks in one area, the main course in one area, the sides in another, etc.  This island makes it super simple to have everything in one spot with extra space on the wall counter for things like condiments, drinks, extra food, etc.

One feature our contractor was kind enough to include was the plugs on either side of the island.  When I use my Instant Pot, it’s easy to use on this counter because of this plug and avoid the steam warping the undersides of the wall cabinets.  We also bought four stools that pivot (Friends, anyone?) and are quite comfortable.  We’ve found ourselves eating at the bar for most meals excluding dinner since it’s so easy to wipe any crumbs straight into the sink after.  With the dinner table, you have to get out placemats and then possibly sweep and use wood cleaner.  This is just easier.

IMG_7714editedSpeaking of dinner table, I love ours!  It’s a two toned wooden table with four gray cloth chairs.  I wanted our chairs to have cushions on them because after a long day at work, the last thing I wanted to do was sit on a wooden chair for longer than 5 minutes.  We used to rush through dinner just so we could get to the couch and be comfortable.  I have found we linger a little longer at this table because we are already pretty comfortable.

We kept the decorations for the table simple, opting to get a big glass candle holder and LED candle surrounded by wine corks.  I love that our candle has a 4 hour timer on it so that we can turn it on at 6pm for dinner and it shuts itself off around 10.  It gives the kitchen a nice ambience at night.


Moving right along, we come to the double pantry.  In the original design, the designer had the left labeled a food pantry and the right an appliance cabinet.  I thought he was right on the money, so I kept the flow.  When I was first imagining my transition from the number of cabinets I had to the number I would have after, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t have enough space, but boy was I wrong.  Not only did I have enough space to hold everything that was in my cabinets prior, I was able to move some stuff up from the basement!  Furthermore, my pantry in the laundry room is currently empty, waiting to be filled with things like my bread maker, ice cream maker, and panini press all still chilling out in the basement.

If you can’t remember, this is what our pantry and wall we removed looked like before:


I shudder every time I look at those crappy cabinets.  Ugh.

IMG_7724editedThese are the upper cabinets.  As you can see, they aren’t even all the way filled!  I have more than enough space and could easily add more shelves if I desired.  Let’s talk about the backsplash a minute…isn’t it GORGEOUS?!?!  It’s probably my favorite design element in the kitchen.  When we first got the counters installed, I thought they were a little dark.  They are a charcoal grey with specks of brown (see picture above).  I was really nervous that first night they were installed thinking I wasn’t going to like them as much as I had hoped.  But then the next day the subway tile backsplash was put in and I fell in love.  It just ties the whole kitchen together.  The backsplash is the same stone as the floor, just a smaller scale.

These are our upper drawers.  I bought some dividers at Home Goods (who could have easily sponsored this entire post), which helps significantly in keeping these drawers organized.  I love that I don’t have to have my utensils on the counter (and so does Jeff…let me tell you!) and each type of utensil basically has it’s own space.  It’s so easy to keep them organized, though every so often I have to follow behind Jeff and rearrange some things after he empties the dishwasher.  😛

These are our bottom drawers on the right side.  I no longer have to store my cookie sheets and other such items under the oven!  Plus I have all my plasticware in one spot with plenty of space for everything.  I have decided if it doesn’t fit in this drawer, it’s trash.  No one needs that many plastic storage containers anyway.

I love having a deep drawer for the cups too.  I can see everything, it’s easy to find a lid and a straw, and I can keep track of what I have too much of (or what I need to buy!).

IMG_7730editedThis is our cabinet on the left of the oven.  It comes complete with two pull out drawers that hold all of our pots and pans.  I added a lid rack for our pan lids.  The only lid I wasn’t able to include in this cabinet was the super sized one for the extra large skillet, which sleeps under the oven.  One thing I do miss about my old kitchen was how I had all the pans stacked in pan racks so I didn’t have to remove a stack of pans to get the bottom one out.  I didn’t have a good spot to put a pan rack in this kitchen, so I opted to store them this way.  It’s fine and really not a big deal, but if I had it to do over again, I might have considered other options for that reason.

Jeff was hardcore against “stuff” on the countertops thinking it would detract from the clean lines and aesthetics of the kitchen, but I fought him on some things.  You can see the full layout of the wall counter in a picture above, but here’s what eventually wound up being included on top.  I wanted a place for our most popular fruits (bananas and apples, which we always have) as well as my olive oil and knives.  For one, I don’t like to store knives in drawers.  Second, I already had my drawers organized the way I wanted.  Third, I use olive oil daily and don’t really want to walk to the pantry to get it out.  Fourth, they’re pretty.  So I win.  I also wanted to keep my cookbook holder out on the counters since I use cookbooks often.  Instead of having an empty holder on the counter, I picked a cookbook that was equally as functional as it was beautiful and fitting to the decor.  I chose Rachael Ray’s “Everyone Is Italian on Sunday” because she is one of my favorite authors and I agree with the title of the cookbook.  In fact, I need to start having big Sunday dinner where I cook homemade pasta and invite the whole family over.  I’m sure I wouldn’t have complaints.  😛

We also bought a few new appliances for our new kitchen.  Going into the renovation, we knew we wanted a new stove.  Our old one was white and obviously would stick out in the new space.  I opted for this lovely lady.  She’s a dual oven (convection on top, standard on bottom) that is WIFI enabled.  Fancy, I know.  I’ve tried her out a couple times now and have to adjust my cooking a little.  She’s a bit hotter than her predecessor and I’m not used to cooking in a convection oven.  It’s no big deal…I just need a bit more practice.  Unfortunately I used her for like the third time on Easter and ended up charring the brownies I made slightly.  They were still edible, but just had a little darkness to them.

Speaking of Easter, we decided to install the new microwave on Easter Sunday.  Now, you might have two questions:  1.  why did we get a new microwave to begin with when the old one was just fine?  and 2.  why on Earth did we decide to install a new microwave on Easter Sunday when the whole family was coming over for dinner that afternoon?  Good questions!

When we were looking at the old microwave, we noticed that there was a secondary charcoal filter on the top of the microwave that filters any nasty particles from the food cooked on the stovetop out before it blows the steam back into the kitchen.  Since we hadn’t changed this filter in over six years, it was blowing gross, greasy slime onto our cabinets.  We didn’t want to ruin our new cabinets, so we started searching for replacement filters.  Funny story…they don’t exist anymore unless you want to pay out the butt for them from a questionable source.  So after weeks of searching, we decided to get a new microwave and stock up on filters.

Jeff didn’t want me to cook anything until we replaced the microwave but he had to go to Amsterdam the last week of March and then we got busy with life.  We were talking about Easter dinner on Saturday and I told him I had to use the stove the next day.  We didn’t have time to replace the microwave on Saturday so, while I was at the grocery store on Sunday, he started to switch them out.  Little did we know it was going to take about 5 hours to replace.  This chick was panicking to the point of crying thinking my family was going to come over and all I was going to be able to serve them was chips and salsa!  Thanks to our brother-in-law, they were able to replace it and I was able to cook in plenty of time to host dinner.  But there for a minute I was considering ordering pizza…

Finally, we weren’t planning on buying a new toaster oven, but Jeff said the more he thought about it, the more he wanted a toaster with an automatic shut off.  I wanted one that had a digital timer and multiple settings for various foods.  So I bought my first Breville appliance.  If you know anything about Breville, you know they aren’t cheap.  It was the most expensive toaster oven I have ever purchased, but in my limited time using it, I can honestly say I’ve never had such a positive experience with a new appliance.  It does everything we want it to do and more!  I would recommend it to anyone who uses their toaster daily for more than just toast like we do. (We use it for toast, heating up side dishes, reheating leftovers, etc.  Basically anything we want to heat up in the oven without having to use all the energy the oven requires.)

Back to the reveal!

Another favorite part of the kitchen are the spice drawers!  I knew I was going to need substantial space for my spices.  Originally I was thinking I would need to dedicate a shelf in the pantry to them, but as I was organizing my kitchen, I realized I had three drawers with nothing earmarked for them.  Voila!  Spice drawers!  I topped them off with a new utensil holder from…you guessed it…Home Goods.  One thing I love about our drawers is they are fully visible meaning they slide all the way out.  In our last kitchen, there was about a 1- or 2-inch space that you couldn’t see and you just had to reach under to get what was stored there.  We ended up putting our small forks and serving pieces in the back of the utensil drawer because we rarely used those things.

Rounding out the last of the cabinets on the island are the trash/recycling drawer (LOVE!), the cutting board/Rachael Ray cookie sheets drawer (buy these RR cookie sheets and thank me later), and two “junk” drawers I haven’t decided what to do with yet.  Right now they are literally junk drawers, but eventually I’d like to dedicate them to something specific.

BTW, has anyone tried Blue Apron?  I was gifted a free week to try and I had mixed reviews.  I LOVED the Shiitake Mushroom Burger recipe I got (pictured on the recipe card in the far right picture), but the other two recipes were just meh.  I was so grateful to my friend, Shannon, for letting me try it though!  I am trying Hello Fresh next week and comparing the two.  We will see how it goes!

IMG_7746editedThe last design piece in the new kitchen is the sink.  First off, I LOVE the color.  It’s so dark and matches so nicely.  It’s awesome.  It’s a 60/40 sink which took a little getting used.  I was initially annoyed with the disposal on the righthand side, but I got used to it. We aren’t allowed to keep the soap on the counter, so it lives in the sink.  Honestly I haven’t even noticed it and I love the clean look of the counters.

IMG_7745editedOur sink has a pull out spot for the sponges, which is pretty typical these days.  We also bought a holder for the paper towels to hide them from view as well.  I am still planning on getting some sort of storage for under the sink so it’s not as jumbled, but for now it works.  We did, however, get a plastic mat for under the sink in case we have any chemical spills.

We were able to finish our laundry room as well.  Most of the work had been done already, but we had the counters installed, the outlets raised above the counters, and a new sink put in that matches the kitchen sink.  We wanted the two rooms to be complimentary since you can easily see them from each other.  We had our flooring flow from the laundry room into the hallway and throughout the kitchen as well so we didn’t have to worry about keeping the hallway clean, which was a huge challenge.  To be honest, I would love if we had tile throughout the main living area.  When we get to the point of replacing our existing flooring in the family room, I’m definitely going to consider it.

You’ll notice my Keurig is now in the laundry room.  It’s the whole maintaining clean lines and limited counter “stuff” initiative.  It was basically my compromise for being allowed to have what I have on the counters now.

As I mentioned above, we now have a nearly empty pantry in our living room.  Initially, we put this in to serve as an overflow for our kitchen, but I realized I’d rather have my overstock food in the basement and put kitchen tools in this space.  I still have to move some appliances up from the basement, which I plan to do when I put the basement back together in the next week or two.  I had to disassemble parts of the basement to make it functional for our cooking during the renovation.

The rest of the cabinets in the laundry room include my cookbooks (I have a problem), the cleaning supplies under and above the sink, and the laundry supplies/coffee cabinet. So far, it’s been extremely functional and I wouldn’t change anything.

Finally, we’ve been working hard on decorating.  In the last 6 weeks, we’ve probably made 15+ trips to Home Goods and have purchased and returned more than I care to admit.  Some of our receipts have three or four additional receipts stapled to them from where we have returned multiple items.  But out of all those trips, here are some pieces we are keeping.

As you can tell, we really like ironwork.  I think the iron decorations add a design element of whimsy and fun to the space.  We have a subtle Italian theme throughout the area, so I wanted to have some sort of wine bottle holder included.  I found the top middle piece and fell in love.  It’s a wine holder made from the sides of wine barrels.  In addition, I love the map of Italy carved into the top of a wine barrel.  It’s hard to see because I took a head-on picture, but if I were to show you the side, it has a metal band around it and you can tell it’s from the top of a barrel.

We didn’t want to have our toaster on the counter, so I found this rack to put on the end of our appliance cabinet.  It was the perfect fit and exactly what I was looking for.  I bought a couple wicker baskets from Michaels to hold our bread and the extra cooking sheets for the toaster.  I’m not super thrilled about the sheets being in the basket as they don’t fit well, but for now it works.

IMG_7766editedFinally, when my mom was visiting last week, our project was to finish the top of the cabinets.  I’ve got to say, coming from someone who doesn’t really feel like decorating is one of her strengths, I love what we did.  It’s kind of hard to see in this picture so I took a couple closer shots (click on them to enlarge them):

I wanted there to be a lot of wood and rustic touches included as well as some plants and greenery.  I love the metal of the candle holder (which I turned into a vase) as well as the wooden WINERY plank sign.  And I fell in love with the tray on the lefthand side the minute I saw it.  This whole setup came from Home Goods and Hobby Lobby.  I wasn’t a huge fan of either of those stores before this process, but now I’m bought in!

Here is my overdue and extremely long winded overview of our new kitchen.  I hope it was worth the wait!

(BTW, I was not sponsored by any company…I just wanted to share where I got my items and talk them up since I had such great experiences with each company.)

Instant Pot Korean Beef | Cooking Through Construction

IMG_9418editedIf you ask my boys, they’ll tell you we rarely have the same thing twice.  I have a handful of favorite recipes that I make over and over again, but usually I’m scouring the internet and my cookbooks looking for new and different things to try.  Sigh…I miss my cookbooks, packed away until the kitchen is completed.  The boys often have to request a meal they miss if they want me to make it again.  Jake has meatball subs in the request pile right now actually.

One of my go to meats to cook with is ground beef because it’s a meat Jake doesn’t usually have an issue with.  Some of his favorite meals include meatballs (see above), meatloaf, and sloppy joe.  Oh and the spaghetti with meat sauce from Wednesday.  You’ll notice all of them have ground beef as the base.  So when I was making my weekly meal plan last weekend and wasn’t inspired by anything on Pinterest, I googled “low carb ground beef recipes” to see what I could come up with.

IMG_9421editedYou see, not only am I cooking without a kitchen, I’m trying to lose a couple pounds before my best friend’s wedding in early April.  I’ve done a decent job so far, but to be honest I’m starting to lose track a bit!  With a night of burger eating in my future, it’s not looking too good…  Yikes!

Anyhow, I searched for the recipes and came across Korean Beef Bowls, which sounded interesting.  I love Asian flavors so anything that has Chinese, Japanese, or Korean in the name is probably up my alley.  Furthermore if they include garlic and ginger, I’m in.

I read through the recipe and decided it was a go!  The best part was I could make everything in my Instant Pot or on my stove, whenever I get that back.  And, unbeknownst to me, the boys were going to love it!  Quick, easy, and a crowd pleaser.  I think that fits the bill in my house.

IMG_9417editedKorean Beef Bowls
(adapted from this recipe)

1 tbsp sesame oil
1½  pounds lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 heaping tbsp garlic paste)
½ tsp Stevia drops (or ½ cup sugar)
½ tsp molasses
¼ cup soy sauce
½ tsp fresh ginger (or use the Gourmet Gardens paste…seriously I love this stuff)
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
1 tbsp honey (if desired)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Sriracha (if desired)

Turn your Instant Pot on saute and heat your oil.  Brown your ground beef, breaking it up as you go.  Drain beef if needed.  Add your garlic, Stevia, molasses, soy, ginger, and crushed red pepper flake.  Cook for 5 minutes until flavors have combined.

This is where I deviated a bit from the original recipe.  I tasted the recipe and decided I wanted it a bit sweeter, plus I have an issue with fake sugar sometimes.  It leaves a taste in my mouth I don’t always love, so I added a drizzle (or two) of honey.  I believe it ended up being about a tablespoon.  Then I stirred it up again and tasted it.  Yum!

I served the beef over Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice (a HUGE timesaver in my house) with a drizzle of Sriracha and a sprinkle of scallions.  Both boys raved about it and Jake finished an entire plate!  And it wasn’t small either!

If you are truly trying to do low carb (like I should have been), you can serve this over cauliflower rice instead.  I’m not a big fan of cauliflower so, while I try to get on board with this trend, it can be hard for me sometimes.  Regardless, this beef is worth a try.  Jeff commented that it would be good in tortillas too.  Asian tacos…future blog post maybe?

Instant Pot Pasta with Meat Sauce | Cooking Through Construction

IMG_9398editedHave you ever come home from work and thought, I’m way to tired to stand over the stove making dinner.  Girl, me too.  It happens all. the. time.  But I just can’t make myself order takeout night after night.  Not only am I trying to lose weight, but we are trying to save money since we’re basically redoing our entire main living area.

I asked Jake what he wanted for dinner on Saturday and he said pasta.  Now, you may be thinking “how are you going to cook pasta if you don’t have a stove, Bethany?”  I’m glad you asked.  By now, you all realize I love my Instant Pot.  And hopefully by now, you’ve taken the plunge and bought yourself one!

You can just throw a bunch of stuff in your instant pot, press cook, and go.  Set it and forget it, right?  Pasta, it turns out, is no exception!  Guys, I may never cook pasta in boiling water again!  It’s seriously that easy and super quick.  Plus the tomato sauce soaks into the pasta so the flavors are incredible!

IMG_9400editedInstant Pot Pasta with Meat Sauce
(adapted from this recipe)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1.5 pounds ground beef
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 box penne pasta, dry
1 jar pasta sauce
Water (fill up the pasta sauce jar ½ way, then shake to get every last bit of sauce)
1 squirt basil (optional)

Turn your IP on to Saute.  Add your olive oil and onion.  au-new-branding-basilLet onion cook for a few minutes before adding your beef.  Cook beef until brown, using a spoon to break up the meat along the way.  Once meat is browned, drain if necessary.  Add beef back to IP.

In with the beef, add salt and pepper to taste, garlic, dry penne pasta, pasta sauce, and water.  If you so choose, add in a squirt of basic paste.  What is basil paste?  It’s amazing stuff.  There’s this company called Gourmet Garden that is just awesome!  They make lots of herbs prepped and ready to go, eliminating the prep work.  I hate peeling ginger and GG has it already in a tube!  They also have cilantro, garlic, lemongrass, and Thai seasoning just to name a few.  I get them right in the regular grocery store next to the herbs in the plastic containers.  I’ve never seen the Thai seasoning though…I’m still on the lookout.  “True” cooks will probably sneer at the mention of these types of items but you know what I say to that?  I’m a mom to a relentless, question-asking 5-year-old, who works 50 hours weeks on her feet outside the home.  I’ll take whatever shortcuts I can.

After you get all your ingredients in the pot, mix to combine, then put on your lid, making sure to turn your knob to sealing.  Set the IP to manual for 5 minutes.

Once the IP beeps, release the pressure.  When you take the lid off, you’ll notice it looks like there is a lot of water on the top and you’ll probably think the pasta didn’t cook enough.  Take a deep breath and stir the contents one more time.  Then taste the most delicious, perfectly cooked pasta you’ve ever had!  The water that’s on top mixes in to the rest of the dish and creates a perfectly creamy, saucy dish.  Think of it as the standard cup of “starchy cooking water” Rachael Ray tells you to remove every time you cook pasta.

I’m not kidding…I may literally never boil water for pasta again for the rest of my life.  I can have amazing, delicious, perfectly cooked pasta within 20 minutes of coming home from work AND only dirty one easy to clean pan.  Uhhh…yes please.

While the pasta was cooking, I made salad and toasted some bread.  Because it’s not pasta night without mama making a sandwich!  Have I convinced you to get an Instant Pot yet?  Don’t worry…I have more tricks up my sleeve.  (And, no, I’m not affiliated with IP.  I just sincerely love their product.)


The Floors

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.  It’s really nerve-racking when your not that great at decorating and you’re forced to choose all the materials for your kitchen months in advance of the renovation.  Luckily, our designer has a pretty good eye and could tell what I wanted after we spoke with her for an hour or two.

We knew we wanted brown cabinets…apparently a huge deviation from the white ones that are so popular these days.  Call me old school, but I hate white cabinets.  So hard to keep clean and just not warm enough for me.  Jeff and I wanted a warm, inviting environment and, to me, that meant Italian-inspired.

After we picked out the brown cabinets, we chose the countertops and floors.  Speaking of countertops, we should be having them installed this week!  Here’s a sneak peak of what that material looks like:

IMG_9042The first tile Carrie, our designer, picked for us was OK, but the matching subway tile was too big for what we were looking for.  We poked around the showroom looking for exactly what we wanted and, finally, we found it!  It was gorgeous.  Cream colored, with brown veining throughout, it was perfect.  It had that old world charm and just modern enough to fit what we were looking for.

IMG_9381Tom, our contractor, called me on Thursday morning to talk about a couple things and then let me in on the news:  our floors were being installed that day!  He told me there would be areas we wouldn’t be able to walk on, but which would be clearly marked.  Unfortunately, it was my late day at work, so knew it would be a long time before I saw the results.

That evening, Jeff called me, frustrated.  Apparently, they had laid the tile in rows instead of staggered like you normally see tile.TilePattern2

Our tile is like the top left diagram.  We were expecting 50% offset like the top right.  I was talking with a coworker who informed me that that was an option but we had to specify it was what we wanted.  Jeff and I were a little annoyed because we were never asked what our preference was.  I told Jeff to pull the contract to see if it specified in there, which he did.  Wouldn’t you know it…it says straight in the contract.  Actually it says “pattern: none”.  Regardless, neither of us remember them asking us what we’d like.  Fortunately, we still like it enough.  Honestly, it doesn’t really matter if we do or don’t…we’re stuck with it!

They did 80% of the floor Thursday and came back to finish the rest on Friday.  They also installed our washer and dryer Friday.  Thank goodness because the laundry was starting to pile up!!  Three guesses what I did all weekend…

IMG_9403They added door pulls to the cabinets too.  I love them!  They look silverish in this picture, but they are more bronze-y in real life.

IMG_9404Oh, and they plumbed for our kitchen sink.  I’m so ready to not have to do dishes in Jake’s bathroom!

IMG_9405Finally, on Friday, they installed our new sliding patio door.  It arrived with a chip in the handle but Jeff called and took care of that in minutes.  Our new handle is on the way!  I really like our new door.  It has internal blinds, which means we won’t have to have curtains in our kitchen!

Two weeks down and two to go, supposedly.  Fingers crossed they finish on time!  It’s really not a super big deal if they don’t…I’m just anxious to start cooking in my new kitchen!


Kitchen Update | Construction

I have struggled with what I want to share about our kitchen project after the demo happened last week.  I want to share, but I also want to have a big reveal at the end of all this.  There have been a ton of changes this week and every day I still rush home to see what new bits and pieces have been accomplished.

Here’s a run down of what’s happened so far:

Probably the most exciting day so far, I walked in to the house to see my cabinets installed!  I actually squealed when I saw them!  Not only were the wall cabinets installed, but the cabinets for the island were in place too.  They weren’t anchored, but they were in roughly the right spot for me to stand behind and picture myself cooking.  Teaser picture of the cabinets above.  Please ignore the tools left behind by the contractor.

I have always had this desire to be cooking in the kitchen and have friends and family sit around my counter watching me cook and talk to me.  I grew up with this type of kitchen atmosphere, watching my mom and dad cook since before I can remember.  It’s where my love of cooking came from.  I remember standing on a chair next to my mom helping her put the pepperoni on the annual Christmas Eve pizza.  I remember forming my favorite sausage balls with her because it wasn’t Christmas day without them.  I remember making chocolate pudding for my older sister’s friends when they stayed over on the weekends.  I remember whipping up chicken sandwiches for my friends after a school dance when everyone came to my house after.  Cooking for friends and family is a feeling I have a hard time explaining.  It is one of the most special things in the world to me and I love it.

Now that I’ve gotten all mushy…

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 9.40.34 AMTuesday
The biggest change we noticed on Tuesday was the paint color.  They painted the kitchen and hallway in our color of choice:  Sherwin Williams Familiar Beige (pictured above from their website).  I wanted a color that was easily accented by a wide array of colors so we could change the feel of our room with various textiles.  I was a little worried about the wall color when I first saw it because I thought Jeff might think it was too pink.  There’s a touch of red in the color, but luckily Jeff really liked it.

We also got a door ordered from Home Depot to be installed by our contractor.  Plus they installed the microwave over the spot for the oven.  Finally, the rest of the cement board was installed in the laundry room.  It was another one of those “little things” days where it’s harder to tell what they accomplished.  I know there is a ton of stuff they have to do that I don’t see.  I just patiently wait until those “wow” days!

Another one of the “little things” days, but with a bigger impact than normal.  Every day when I walk in, the first thing I do is turn on all the lights so I can see as much as possible. Today, I was pleasantly surprised to find they installed the can lights!  We had regular lights beforehand that were covered, making the light diffused and soft.  Not that that’s a bad thing, but in a kitchen you need to see what you’re doing.  You don’t want to accidentally cut off a finger because you thought it was a carrot or something!

They also attached the island counter to the floor.  Finally, I’m pretty sure they are going to start on the tile soon because one of the tiles was placed up against the cabinet.  I was able to see what the two looked like together and I have to say I’m excited.  Our tile is a grayish white with cream and beige veining throughout.  I added a picture of it above and whited out the cement board on the sides so you could get a clear picture, even though it looks a little funny!

We used to have a fan over our kitchen table but decided we’d rather have a chandelier instead.  But John, our designer, suggested we keep the fan in the kitchen, but move it over the oven area.  We have faulted ceilings, so it would be very high, but that would give us even more air movement.  What a nice option in the summer!

I noticed when they installed the lights Wednesday, they marked the location for the chandelier but, when I stood under the mark, I realized it wasn’t centered over where the table was going to be.  So I left Tom a message about it and he called me Thursday morning to discuss it.  During that conversation, he mentioned before the weekend they were going to start the tile, install the granite in the laundry room, replace the door, add hardware to the cabinets, and begin plumbing the kitchen sink!  Yay!  It’s only been a week and a half and I’m already in love with my new kitchen.  I can’t wait to share the finished product with you!

But for now you must wait…muah ha ha ha.

Meatballs…Not Just for Italians Anymore | Cooking Through Construction 

I’ve been doing A LOT of cooking in the basement and, guys, it’s a breeze!  Really!  It’s all about the set up and having the right tools.  Once I set up my long, white table with various cooking utensils, spices, seasonings, and (most importantly) my Keurig, it was simple after that!  Plus, the tool that’s making it all possible…my Instant Pot.

71-ak79nv1L._SL1500_Special PSA about the Instant Pot:  if you’re a busy mom or new to cooking or a retired person or if you like to eat in general, you need an Instant Pot.  Let me repeat.  You NEED an Instant Pot.  You can order it right here.

I’ll wait.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about the two awesome meatball recipes I’ve made in our Basement Bistro.

First, we departed from the norm and tried Asian.  I know what you’re thinking…Asian?  In meatballs?  Ugh…  But trust me.  They were AWESOME.  They were so awesome in fact that I didn’t even snap a picture!  Jake gobbled them up and asked for seconds!  He never asked for seconds when it comes to meat!  He even asked when I could make them again.

A few nights later, we went Swedish and had some of their meatballs.  And the best part was I didn’t even have to cook the noodles!  Everything was cooked in one pot at the same time! You know what that means?  Daddy got dish duty.  The one thing I would change with this recipe is the cook time.  I didn’t trust the cook time in the recipe I followed, so I upped the amount.  What resulted was overcooked noodles.  But the rest of the recipe was still delicious!  Don’t worry…I adjusted it for you already.

If you’re family is like mine and loves meatballs, try either (or both) of these recipes!  I promise you they’ll be a hit.

Meal #1
Asian Meatballs with Rice
(adapted from this page)

1.25 lbs ground turkey
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Honey (optional)
Trader Joe’s brown rice (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and roll into 1” balls.  Preheat Instant Pot on “saute” and cook your meatballs for 5 minutes, turning to brown each side.  Add ½ cup soy sauce.  Cancel your Instant Pot and hit “manual”.  Add cover to instant pot, making sure the valve is closed.  Choose “manual” high pressure and cook for 15 minutes.

When your pot beeps to let you know it’s done cooking, let the pressure release naturally while you heat up your rice.  In this case, I chose to use Trader Joe’s brown rice because it’s easy.  If you opt to cook your own, it’s best you start both the rice and the meatballs at the same time.

Once your meatballs are finished, drizzle them with honey to sweeten them slightly if you like.  Serve over rice with extra soy sauce or, my favorite, Frank’s Sweet Chili sauce.

I really kick myself for not taking a photo of these meatballs.  We were all so hungry, they vanished before I even thought about it.  The one above is the only one I have so it’ll have to do.

This meal is declared a “freezer meal” on the original page.  You can make all your meatballs ahead of time and throw everything in the pot the night of.  The IP will cook the meatballs from frozen in the same amount of time it cooked the thawed ones.  I don’t know why…I don’t make the rules. (Name that movie, anyone??)


Meal #2
Swedish Meatballs
(from this recipe)

1.5 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 oz egg noodles
one 24oz bag (frozen & fully cooked) meatballs
1 block cream cheese

Mix the beef broth, milk, and soup in your Instant Pot.  Cover with egg noodles.  Top with meatballs.  Press “manual” and let cook for 8 minutes.  Once the pot beeps, release the pressure.  I like to add a hand towel to the top so it doesn’t splatter soup steam all over.

Once the pressure switch drops, remove lid and mix in your cream cheese.  Serve to hungry boys!

I hope you try these recipes and find something you like!  What is your favorite meatball recipe?


Small Changes, Big Results

Every day I came home last week, I eagerly opened my garage door to see what changes came about in my kitchen during the day.  The first two days it was very obvious what they did considering when we left our kitchen it was in tact and when we got home it was…well…not.  Before is on the left, after is on the right (obviously):


The first two days, we saw the cabinets come down, the wall disappear, and the floor vanish.  Day three the only thing we really noticed was different was more of the floor was missing.  Day four brought a new little turn of events to us.  Black mold.mold

When they removed the floor by our patio door, we saw the dreaded black stuff.  We also noticed how corroded the wall and floor were.  You can actually feel the wind coming in from the outside, which makes sense why it was always so much colder when we were eating dinner!

Our contractor, Tom, asked us if we had considered replacing the door which, oddly enough, we had been talking about.  We were going to wait to do that until the kitchen was done since we were making so many changes at once, but now it looks like we might need to proceed with that change sooner rather than later.

The other thing they did on Thursday was fix our half wall.

Originally, we had a “beam” going from our cabinets to our half wall but, when we removed the beam, we just had a wall sort of hovering in mid air.  (You can kind of see what I’m talking about in the left picture.)  We wanted to fix the wall and take it all the way up to the ceiling so it looked like it was built in, which they completed.  Other than those changes, we didn’t notice a whole ton.  I’m sure they did more “behind the scenes” work that we don’t really notice though.  We also received a note saying the electrician had been sick but would be back to work on things the next day.

cement-floorFriday came and, much like the last few days, it was tough to see what all they did.  I have a feeling until we start seeing cabinets and floors being installed, I won’t really notice as much as I expect to.  We did notice they put down “cement board” on our floors in preparation for the tile to be installed!  I’m really excited to see that part.  You can only imagine so much when you pick items out in a showroom.  They also removed the plumbing from where the sink and dishwasher used to be and cut the carpet so it was straight across.

They are supposed to work on the floors as well as the laundry room this week.  I had to turn in our paint color last week, so I’m thinking they will be painting sometime this week too!  They say it should only take 4 weeks and we are 1 week in already.  It will be interesting to see if they are really able to deliver on their timeline!

To pass the weekend, I headed to Kentucky for my best friend’s bachelorette party.  I was in charge of the weekend and spent most of Thursday night making “survival” bags for the bridesmaids.  I even used my Photoshop skills to make custom champagne bottle labels!  I have to say I’m pretty proud of those bags!

We had a great time.  We started the day with a painting class, headed to Seviche (an upscale restaurant) for dinner, and then ended the night at a club!  We even convinced our limo driver to stop for Starbucks!  It was a great night but I sure was ready to get home to my guys.

parkIt was such a nice weekend we went to the park for hot dogs and smores!  Who’s ready for summer?  I know we are…